End Sexual Violence in Conflict – Time To Act

It is a terrible fact that rape and sexual violence is used as a weapon of war around the world. It breaks up families, destroys whole communities and ruins the lives of women and men, boys and girls. Sometimes rape is even used as a way to deliberately infect victims with HIV.In Rwanda several hundred thousand women were raped during the three months of genocide in 1994. The extent of inhumanity knew no boundaries. Sadly sexual violence continues to take place across the world and the number of victims is staggering.

It is very disturbing to think that people intentionally behave in ways that destroy innocent others  – or use their authority and power to encourage or even permit others to do so on their behalf. To end sexual violence we need to understand why people are ready to commit unimaginable cruelty. We also  need greater understanding of the chain from person to situation to system.

What we do know is that any setting that makes it possible for people to hide behind anonymity reduces their sense of personal accountability and civic responsibility for their actions.

This week’s Global Summit Against Sexual Violence in London is a very important step in increasing awareness about sexual violence. The conference brings together governments, civil society, media, military and judiciary to turn political will into practical action. There are many things that can be done. One critical step is to ensure that international legislation recognizes sexual violence as an international crime and that the perpetrators are caught and brought to justice.

But above all we need a fundamental change in attitudes. We need to make the darkness visible in order for lightness to be possible. We need to make sure that individuals can resist pressure to commit abuse. In other words we need more heroes that can stand up and say no.

Over the past year political will to tackle these terrible crimes and injustices has dramatically increased. This is very much thanks to Angelina Jolie, the Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and the UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague. Their tireless efforts in raising awareness of sexual violence is critical to move forward.

In my speech at the #Endsvchack/DiploHack at Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict I thanked all the volunteers and the organisers from Chayn and Make Sense for the very long hours they have put in and I also thanked the FCO and the Dutch embassy in London for being instrumental in making the hackathon take place.

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